What does the idiom "It takes one to know one" mean?

Idioms are generally defined as groups of words that form a meaningful whole when they come together, even though the words in them do not make sense on their own. They have produced many idioms according to their own cultural characteristics in communities using the English language. What does It takes one to know one mean? In what situations is It takes one to know one used?

Meaning of "It takes one to know one"


The phrase “It takes one to know one” is an idiom used to suggest that only someone who has certain qualities can accurately recognize those same qualities in someone else. This phrase is often used as a clever way to describe or accuse someone of a certain trait, usually a negative one. It implies that the speaker and the person they are speaking to both possess this trait, and good-naturedly encourages the two of them to own up to it together.


The phrase “It takes one to know one” is thought to have been first used in the late 1800s. It likely originated from the same phrase “it takes one to know one,” which dates back to the 1600s and has meant the same thing for centuries. This phrase first appeared in writing in a book titled “Autobiography of a Whiskey Thief,” written by a man named George Washington Bickley in 1859. This book popularized the phrase and helped spread it throughout the United States.


The phrase “It takes one to know one” is typically used as a subtle way to call someone out on a certain trait they possess. It is usually used to describe a trait or behavior that is seen as undesirable or undesirable, such as being greedy or dishonest. It is typically meant to be good-natured and light-hearted, and it’s often used among friends. The phrase is also commonly used to describe people’s abilities or talents, such as “it takes one to know one when it comes to good cooking.”

Example Sentences

  • “You think you can get away with lying? It takes one to know one!”
  • “You’re such a good dancer–it takes one to know one.”
  • “You can really spot a good deal–it takes one to know one.”
  • “You think you’re so smart, huh? Well, it takes one to know one.”

The meanings of the words in the "It takes one to know one" idiom

The Global Spread of English Idioms

As English has become a global language, its idioms have spread far beyond the borders of the UK and USA. For instance, the idiom "beat around the bush" has equivalents in many other languages, such as "tourner autour du pot" in French and "dar vueltas al asunto" in Spanish. Meanwhile, other idioms have been adapted for local contexts, such as the Russian idiom "?? ???? ???????" (ne svoya rubashka), which translates to "not one's own shirt," meaning to be in an uncomfortable or unfamiliar situation.


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